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Local architectural intern wins Indigenous housing award

February 14, 2018 — 

reposted from the Winnipeg Sun 
written by: Glen Dawkins

During his undergraduate studies in architecture at the University of Manitoba, Evan Taylor was involved in a project where students worked with northern remote Indigenous communities and spent time in the communities to overcome the chronic problem of providing adequate housing. The experience laid the seeds for an award-winning proposal.

He thought that instead of a one-size-fits-all solution to the housing problem, why not have houses that match the requirements of the people who will actually live in them.

“We met the people who lived there and we saw the quality of housing that they have and the environment and culture that they live in and how the housing that they have doesn’t reflect their contemporary needs or their cultural needs,” said Taylor, a Winnipeg architectural intern who took second spot in “Indigenous Housing Canada 2017” – an international ideas competition sponsored in partnership with Architects Without Borders.

“My proposal was looking at how do we get to the idea of housing from the bottom up instead of from top down,” said the 25-year-old. “Working from the local community and seeing what kind of resources and things like that which are around and how do we start from those local community needs and their desires and how do we build housing from those. It’s about laying out all of the pieces to the larger puzzle such as is it accessible by road or is it only winter road or is it fly-in. How does that change the direction of how we can get there?

“In a nutshell, the idea was how do we start to localize and look at the community first and work with them to design housing as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.”

With over 600 Indigenous communities in Canada located in diverse and often remote locations, the purpose of the ideas competition was to raise awareness of these unique needs while creating a large inventory of indigenous housing design ideas.

Of the 80 submissions received from around the world, Taylor placed second with his idea of creating an overall design process that takes into account the unique needs and challenges of individual communities and regions. Centered on an understanding of building in remote areas, Taylor’s process would introduce a unique grass roots system for collecting this local information, rather than imposing top-down, universal solutions towards the dwellings alone.

“I tried to look at and make visible all of the things that happen before the actual building process starts,” said Taylor. “It’s about everything that happens before and as a consequence of all of those steps and considerations a house comes out of it.”

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